The inspiration comes from a game character with a seemingly innocent name, “Huggy Wuggy.” It may make you think of the rhyme about the bear “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” But it’s the goal of the game and disturbing social media videos that have parents raising eyebrows and school officials sending notes home.
Here’s what parents should know about the game, where kids may be exposed to it, and what you can—and can’t—do about it.
What Is Huggy Wuggy?
Huggy Wuggy sounds like a cuddly teddy bear. But the monster is actually an evil villain in the 2021 horror PC game Poppy Playtime by MOB Games. The blue stuffed bear is no Care Bear. When he opens his mouth, he has rows of sharp teeth. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Poppy Playtime is a game of survival set in an abandoned toy factory. Players must solve puzzles while Huggy Wuggy hunts them. He has inspired multiple YouTubers to create parodies of creepy songs, that, while not intended for children, are easy for kids to find and watch online.
Where Are Kids Getting Exposed to Huggy Wuggy?
Deal Parochial Primary School in the U.K. recently sent a letter home to parents warning them that kids were offering to hug classmates and whispering vulgar things in their ears.
How do kids know about Huggy Wuggy in the first place? After all, your elementary school child may not have access to or play Poppy Playtime. But kids are still seeing videos of the monster-bear hybrid on YouTube and TikTok. YouTube has parental control options, but the Deal Parochial Primary School fears the videos aren’t getting filtered because “Huggy Wuggy” is a cute name.
The videos aren’t cute, though. Some feature TikTokers making fan art with fan parody songs playing in the background. Others show creepy images, like Huggy Wuggy and his knife-like teeth racing toward the camera.
Why Are People Concerned About Huggy Wuggy?
Deal Parochial Primary School said the videos were upsetting children.
Common Sense Media cautions parents, “While there’s no graphic violence or gore, there are splatters of blood throughout the factory. Also, the horror nature of the game will likely be too scary for younger audiences.”
Aside from the videos, like Squid Game, Huggy Wuggy has made its way to the playground.
“It is a very deceiving character, as hugs should be seen as something kind and loving,” wrote Deal Parochial Primary School head Justine Brown in her letter to parents.
How Adults Can Help
Brown asked parents to remain vigilant, reminding them, “children can become upset and confused by what they see.”
Parents can use expert advice from previous trends, like the 2019 Momo Challenge, which prompted necessary discussions about cyberbullying, and the recent Squid Game controversy.
- Educate yourself. It’s hard to keep up with every new social media platform and app. But experts share it’s important to know what your child is using.
- Get their opinions. Asking your child open-ended questions about what they know of a game and their thoughts on it can give you a glimpse into their thought process and help you shape the conversation.
- Communicate with your child. It can be alarming to learn that your child is watching videos or replicating Huggy Wuggy on the playground. But you can use it as a prompt to speak with your child and help them learn. Use “I” statements, such as, “I love you, and I’m concerned that this game could hurt you and others. It’s so important to treat others with respect.”
- Let them know you’re there. These images can be scary and confusing. Telling them that you understand that and letting them know you’re always available to talk leaves the door open for future conversations.
Unfortunately, Huggy Wuggy isn’t the first potentially harmful trend, and it won’t be the last. Open and honest conversations with your child can help them navigate the digital space and playground.